The Origin of Clapping?

Discussion in 'History' started by Facial, Feb 26, 2010.

  1. Facial Valued Senior Member

    Here I am talking about clapping as a form of applause.

    It is known that in Medieval Times you applaud by banging your fist against the table. In Roman Times you snap your fingers.

    When did clapping become the norm for expressing applause?
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The internet is surprisingly vague on the origin of clapping. The best I can find is that the practice of clapping as a way of applauding a theatrical or musical performance arose in the Middle Ages.

    As the Reformation and the Renaissance released the strictures of the Church over secular life, there was a slow increase in surplus wealth and division of labor. (The Plague perversely helped with this, since when one-third of you die the two-thirds who are left alive are suddenly 50% wealthier!) As a result, public performances of music and theater became more common.

    Actors and musicans found themselves playing to larger audiences than the palace court, so some of the older forms of applause, such as waving kerchiefs or snapping the middle finger and thumb, just didn't communicate very well. Besides, a less aristocratic audience would be expected to use a less formal and restrained method of applauding.

    Cheering works, but even today in fairly rude America, it's not considered proper to yell at a symphony orchestra or a Shakespearean company unless it's one of the greatest performances of our life. Yelling is only used as the superlative form of applause.

    I wouldn't be surprised to learn that clapping evolved out of the necessity to communicate pleasure and approval clearly, because our physiology and the technology of the era provided few other effective options.
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  5. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    Interestingly, clapping in the bible seems generally to be celebratory; not quite the same thing as applause for a performance, perhaps. Maybe clapping was thought to be a suitable response to the triumph of good in the biblical-based mystery plays of medieval Europe.

    Clapping as celebration:

    2 Kings 11:12
    Jehoiada brought out the king's son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, "Long live the king!"

    Psalm 98:8
    Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy;

    Isaiah 55:12
    You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

    Clapping as celebration and derision:

    Ezekiel 25:6
    For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel,

    Nahum 3:19
    Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?

    Clapping as derision:

    Lamentations 2:15
    All who pass your way clap their hands at you; they scoff and shake their heads at the Daughter of Jerusalem: "Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?"
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
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  7. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Amusing aside: The 2000 year old man series (Mel Brooks with Carl Reiner as straight man) has a description (which is attributed to Rob Reiner) based on the idea people used to slap their cheeks for applause, but some genius decided it was too painful so he moved his head out of the way.

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